Skip Navigation


Lord of the Stump

November 15, 2022
By Paul Emmel
A clipping from the Start Tribune newspaper
A birch tree actually growing out of a cedar stump near our cabin


In less than a minute, a chainsaw makes an ugly stump out of a beautiful 100 year old cedar tree.  The sharp teeth of the saw rip through the tough trunk like a hot knife through butter. The tree is fatally amputated. Next year it will be firewood. Death wins again.

So it seems. Yet, wherever I walk in the forest, I see evidence of new life coming out of deadwood.  Without human intervention, sprouts and saplings break forth from rotting wood and become the next generation of forest growth. It's Nature's way of creating renewal and new life.

Likewise, life itself makes us vulnerable to sudden cuts and losses that within minutes alter the trajectory of our future.  For example - a fatal accident, a crippling diagnosis, being victimized by crime, a raging fire, a stroke, an unstoppable virus -  tear into the fabric of our lives and we are helplessly left with nothing but an ugly stump. Being "stumped" in this fallen world happens all the time. 

Faced with barren stumps, however, we dare not despair. We must trust the promises of The Lord of Life to generate new life out of the  deadwood of our past. Rather than giving in to hopelessness or bitterness, we trust that God is " Lord of the Stump."

Jesus appeared to be stumped on the cross. He suffered cruel lashing and sharp spikes that lacerated His flesh.  He breathed his last and died. A perfectly innocent human cut down in the prime of life. It looked as if cruelty and death triumphed again.

Incredibly,  He surprised everyone by rising from His tomb and the Spirit of the Lord rested on Him. From that Good Friday stump grew His new people enlivened by the Spirit. The Apostles were fruitful and gave birth to a new generation, called The  Church. Motivated by the Gospel, they changed the course of  history. A New People, grew out of the deadwood  and failure of the past.

Isaiah prophesied in chapter 11:

"There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
and the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge
and the fear of the LORD."


New life arising from dead stumps!
A birch emerges from a cedar!
Who could have imagined!
Who knows what new life
He will bring from our old stumps?
We trust Him even when our lives are suddenly amputated.
Where there is loss and death,
He brings new life.
We witness this again and again
throughout our lives.
He is truly "Lord of the Stump!"
Thus, we bless His holy name!
Paul Emmel

November 13, 2022
The Twenty Third Sunday after Pentecost

This essay is dedicated to the blessed memory of Charles Rodman Partridge (1934-2022).

Paul EmmelPaul Emmel is a retired pastor in the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, having served as a parish pastor, a correctional chaplain for the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, and a hospital chaplain and a community counselor. As a retired pastor, Paul continues to serve the Lord and His people, including establishing the Minnesota South District’s “Pastors to Prisoners” ministry.